Israel eager to update air accord, expand trade with PH | Global News

Israel eager to update air accord, expand trade with PH

By: - Reporter / @TarraINQ
/ 04:55 PM July 17, 2013

Israeli Ambassador to the Philippines Menashe Bar-on . AP FILE PHOTO

MANILA, Philippines — Encouraged by Europe’s lifting of its ban on Philippine Airlines, Israel hopes to establish direct flights to Manila and back to boost exchanges between the two countries, particularly in the areas of trade and tourism.

Israeli diplomats disclosed this week that Israeli and Philippine aviation officials were in an advanced stage of discussions to update a 60-year-old air services agreement, with the goal of launching direct flights to link the two nations.


“We are in an advanced stage [of talks]. It’s between experts, aviation authorities from the two countries. Once we finish all the small details, the delegation from the Philippines and Israel will meet and sign the new updated [air services agreement],” said Israeli Ambassador to the Philippines Menashe Bar-On.


“We are updating the current agreement which is 60 years old. We’re updating the requirements for air aviation, international regulations. Once it is finished, it will pave the way for air companies to make business,” he added.

The envoy noted that such direct link would facilitate greater exchange between Israelis and Filipinos, who are both not required visas to enter each other’s country as tourists.

Chaim Choshen, Israel’s top diplomat for South and Southeast Asia, believes direct flights between key Israeli and Philippine cities “will really change the mode of relations between the two countries.”

“Because everywhere where you have direct flights, it changes the relations ’cause people have easier access and can arrive easily,” said Choshen, who was in Manila for a three-day visit this week.

Israelis who wish to visit the Philippines usually have to travel first to either Hong Kong or Bangkok, where they catch connecting flights.

“I think there is a huge potential because Israel is the Holy Land, and most of the population of the Philippines are Christians, Catholics, and I think the Holy Land means something to most of you. I think almost every Filipino has a dream to visit once the Holy Land,” said Choshen.


Conversely, the country could also be attractive to Israeli tourists, Choshen  noted. He cited the example of Thailand, where some 200,000 Israeli tourists fly every year conveniently through twice-daily direct flights. Carriers also fly directly to Israel from Hong Kong and Mumbai daily.

“I think the Philippines can be very attractive to young Israelis. A lot of Israelis are touring Asia and are looking for cheaper destinations. You are not less beautiful than Thailand, aren’t you? It’s a beautiful country, the beaches, you have a lot to offer; Manila has many restaurants,” Choshen told the Inquirer.

Israel is particularly interested in inviting Philippine Airlines to fly directly to its cities, following the European Union’s decision this month to allow the carrier to operate again in European air space. PAL is keen to reestablish its presence with a bolstered fleet later this year in key European cities, returning after some 15 years of absence.

“You ask me what I see and I see that the Philippine Airlines is purchasing so many new aircraft, I see that the European Union lifted the ban for the airline to fly to destinations in Europe, the construction boom [in Manila], the reforms in governance, and I think these are very meaningful developments that we recognize that are very promising,” Choshen said.

Currently, there are more Filipinos going to Israel than Israelis coming to the Philippines:  13,450 Filipinos visited Israel in 2012 while 5,895 Israelis visited the country the same year.

The direct route will also help boost trade ties between the two countries, currently at a level that lags behind other Asian countries, Choshen said.

“We believe and see actually that things are happening here, the good performance. The potential for cooperation is far from being exhausted. I think both sides should do much more in order to increase the cooperation between them,” he said.

Total trade between the two countries stands at $200 million, with Israeli exports to the country consisting of information technology, medical and electrical products, said the diplomat.

“But I think it’s a very small number. With China, our trade is around $8 billion or $9 billion, India is at $5 billion, Japan it’s $3 billion, and Vietnam grew very, very quickly in the couple of years from $200 million to $1.1 billion,” said Choshen.

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During his three-day visit, which ended on Tuesday, Choshen met with Foreign Undersecretary for International Economic Relations Laura del Rosario and Assistant Secretary for Middle East and African Affairs Petronila Garcia to discuss areas for possible trade expansion.

TAGS: Foreign affairs, Global Nation, International relations, Israel, Philippines

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